Tired legs caught up to the Fort Lewis College men’s basketball team in the second half Monday in the team’s third road game in six days.
A late addition to the schedule from a previously postponed game at Colorado State University-Pueblo, the Skyhawks had one day to prepare for the ThunderWolves after a big win Saturday night at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
FLC shot a red-hot 64% from the field in the first half. That was led by senior forward Riley Farris, who had 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting. But Farris and the Skyhawks were bottled up in the second half, as FLC shot only 36.4% in the game’s final 20 minutes and Farris went 1-of-5 shooting.
That paired with foul trouble saw FLC lose 84-79 after leading 49-39 at halftime.
“We were just out of gas a bit, no question about that,” FLC head coach Bob Pietrack said. “It is completely on me for scheduling so many road games in a row. We are trying to be honorable and play the games we owe, but basketball is a very difficult sport. We were extremely tired in the second half, and it showed.”
Farris, who was named the RMAC Offensive Player of the Week for his performances in last week’s two road wins, finished with 26 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots for the Skyhawks. The schedule was especially tough on the preseason All-American, who had missed two games before the road trip because of an illness and had not played a game since Jan. 3 going into last Wednesday’s 76-75 win at Adams State.
FLC senior Will Wittman had 13 points before he fouled out, and Brenden Boatwright added 13 points – with nine in the second half – to go with eight rebounds. The eight rebounds matched Corey Seng for the team high. Seng finished with seven points and six assists, as well, but went 0-of-4 at the foul line including an 0-for-2 trip with FLC down 77-73 with a little more than a minute to play.
The Skyhawks (5-5, 4-5 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) shot only 7-of-14 at the foul line in the game. Meanwhile, CSU-Pueblo (3-6, 3-6 RMAC) took advantage of 24 fouls on the Skyhawks and made 27-of-31 at the foul line. CSU-Pueblo was whistled for only 14 fouls the entire game, while multiple questionable calls went against FLC every time.
“They got to the free-throw line so much. They owned the free-throw line,” Pietrack said. “There were some charge-block calls we hoped to go our way, and we didn’t get them. They lived at the free-throw line, and, unfortunately, we missed our free throws. It’s disappointing, but we were a very tired basketball team.”
The ThunderWolves were fresh after having six days off since their last contest. Junior guard David Simental, who torched FLC with a 42-point game in an overtime loss in Durango last season, scored a game-high 27 points on 8-of-13 shooting and a 9-of-10 showing at the foul line. He added five rebounds and played all 40 minutes of the game.
Tre Brown, another junior guard, scored 15 points on only 3-of-12 shooting and 0-of-3 from 3-point range, but he got to the line 10 times and made nine. He had seven rebounds and four assists.
Freshman guard Tristan Hurdle started the game strong and finished in similar fashion. He went 3-of-8 from 3-point territory and finished with 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting overall. Senior guard Alex Reed scored 10 points, with a perfect 8-of-8 showing at the foul line.
“Credit to Pueblo, they played outstanding,” Pietrack said. “They had the six days of rest, and it showed down the stretch. They made all the big plays to win the game. For us, it’s back to the drawing board and try to get a bit better. That’s all we can do right now.”
FLC will welcome No. 1 Colorado School of Mines (10-0, 9-0 RMAC) at 7:30 p.m. Friday inside Whalen Gymnasium in Durango. FLC dropped a 79-73 road loss to Mines earlier this season on Dec. 19 in Golden. Mines has not played since a Feb. 1 84-52 thumping of Regis with four consecutive games postponed because of COVID-19 issues within the Orediggers team.
“Well, we get the No. 1 team coming in, so we don’t have much time to mess around,” Pietrack said. “We gotta get back and get back into school after missing class for a week. We will get back and do the very best we can to come out with a good game plan to slow down a team that is awfully special.”